First, if you don’t know what TDEE is, look here:
So I get the occasional person posting “TDEE doesn’t work for everyone. I am gaining weight.”
I have to point one thing out first. Eating to TDEE is not necessarily a sure fire way to lose weight and that was never the intent. Eating to TDEE is how to balance your hormones, ensure adequate energy intake to allow all body processes to operate as they were intended, to ensure you are eating enough food to obtain all the essential vitamins and minerals necessary to perform all the complex biochemical reactions needed to make your machine function as it was meant to and to keep your base metabolic rate at a level that makes you flexible. Being metabolically flexible means that if for a few days a week you want to cut calories to lose a few pounds quicker, you can do that. You have room to drop calories occasionally. If you are chronically eating 1,000 cals a day and you stall, where do you go from there? 800? Then when you stall there? Zero cals a day? See what I mean? Metabolic Flexibility is important.
So what does it mean if you gain weight doing TDEE? Lets break that down:
What is TDEE?
The calories you use to get your TDEE is the number of calories a normal person of your age, height, weight and physical activity level should be able to eat, on a standard diet that is high in carbs, and be able to MAINTAIN THEIR WEIGHT.
That is the key idea here. You should be able to maintain your weight, even eating carbs and having elevated insulin, when eating this amount of food.
If you are gaining weight eating TDEE and you are also eating a ketogenic diet that is keeping your insulin low, this is a major warning sign. Red flag! Sound the alarm! You are in a very bad way. This typically only happens to people who have been following a very reduced caloric diet for some extended period of time. They have tanked their metabolism and can no longer burn through energy at a normal rate making it hard for the body to deal with incoming energy.
The reason people stall when losing weight is usually due to metabolic slow down. This has been measured and is pretty concrete as a fact at this point. You can read about a 6 year study following the contestants of the biggest loser, who used the principle of eat less and move more to lose massive amounts of weight, that showed even though they maintained their strict calorie restricted diet along with a heavy exercise regiment they all gained the weight back. It clearly shows a dramatic reduction in their base metabolic rate. They actually use less calories then they used to making it impossible to maintain weight loss. They are still eating nothing and still exercising like mad but since they are using less calories just to live than they were before they are actually at a caloric surplus. Therefore they gain the weight back.
So what should you do? Quit and go back to caloric restriction? Likely if you are trying TDEE you’ve already been down that road and it wasn’t working so that isn’t the right path. So what do you do? The answer to that comes down to what is happening when you are eating TDEE.
Eating to TDEE forces your body to try and deal with all of the extra energy coming in. If you are eating carbs or higher protein, this will result in weight gain due to elevated insulin. If you are eating keto, this should result in weight loss as well as high ketones because your fat stores will be releasing fat which will satisfy your energy needs and the incoming high fat diet will have no place to go but to get converted to ketones.
So why would you gain weight? Simple. As shown in the NIH’s study on the Biggest Loser contestants, you have forced your body to reduce your metabolic rate (the amount of energy it uses to function) so dramatically from years of starving it of energy that the amount of fat energy that is required from your stored fat is so very little that the extra TDEE calories you are eating simply cannot be effectively wasted. Even by converting them to ketones. There is only so much it can do.
So why continue with TDEE? Well that is pretty simple. Just as you can tank your metabolism, you can renew it. The longer you eat TDEE the higher it will rise. It may never get to where it was, although I think a period of exceeding TDEE can get it there or even higher, but it will rise and the longer you do this the higher it will go and the more energy you will effectively be able to use. If you were gaining the gain will slow just as the loss slows with caloric restriction. It goes both ways. Eventually it will taper off and even start to go in the other direction.
Once you have your metabolism right again, you can then play with some different, but responsible, strategies for weight loss. Some of these are but not limited to:
Short cycles of low calories followed by periods of TDEE or higher
Alternate day fasting
So in short, if your definition of TDEE working for you is losing weight right away, no it may not work for you. If you choose to look at it for what it actually is, a way to get your metabolism back to a healthy state, then it will work 100% of the time.
For help with your ketogenic Diet you can sign up for personal coaching with Coach Jack. Visit Personal Coaching with Coach Jack for more information.